Pour me a cup of that sweet, steaming kofi https://ko-fi.com/pmuink
I think in the absence of being able to really go anywhere, I find myself looking back at amazing holidays I have had and being very greatful for the lovely people in my life. This was when the inestimable Paul Macauley and I went to visit the remarkable Kerra Nolan and Scott Lee Andrews. One of my favourite memories from that trip was having a smoke on the porch and watching the enormous fruit bats fly in slow motion over Kerra and Scott’s house.
I have approached this subject before. If you have any creative practice, at some point you are going to get block. It’s the other side of the inspiration coin. The good news is it’s just a moment in time which will pass. Even better news there are some small simple things that can help you send artistic block on its way a little bit quicker.
I have packed this post with videos and podcasts in the hopes that if you come across it when you really need some help pushing through a block, one of these will spark something for you.
Here are just some of the things I have been playing with over the last 4 years. If you try any of these tools, then please let me know how you get on in the comments. Also if you have other ideas or tactics you use to bust the block then please let me know.
- Do something that makes you happy – It is a new theory I have been working on recently, but I’m pretty sure that the tortured artist trope has had its day. I know when I am happy and feel like I am looking after myself then it is much easier to motivate myself. If you are experiencing the frustration of artistic block, it can only be a good thing to switch your emotional gears.
- Try working in a different surrounding or cleaning/re-organising your space. Your environment can have a big impact on your thinking. I sometimes will move from my desk to sit in the kitchen or garden. Or set aside some tidying time before I begin a drawing session so that there are fewer distractions. It also helps that I hate tidying, so I am always really happy to be back to drawing by the time I’m done. I also listen to music or put a film on in the background which can help to reset your mood. My favourite go to is the Amadeus soundtrack.
- Sleep on it. Not literally but the sentiment here is to step away from what you are doing. Fresh eyes can really help you move past your inner inspiration walls. This is a tactic I learnt from one of my mindfulness teachers Michelle Levey who taught me to cosy up and get curious about the challenges your mind can bring you. If you have the luxury of time then sometimes this is a good tactic to take. Take the time away from your project to get curious about what is stopping you. You might find it helps you to tap into deeper resources. The important thing if you try this to be kind to yourself, the worst thing you can do is to start making yourself feel bad about feeling bad.
- Top up your creative bank account -listen to music or a pod cast. Inspiration is infectious. If you have creative friends you will know that spending some time talking to them can spark ideas. If you are looking for a good podcast about creativity then you can’t go wrong with Creative Loving Spirit by Paul Macauley. Other good options are Mindfulness with Tamsin Bishton, The Art History Babes and Creative Pep Talk . On the music front then Gudjor never fails to come at me left of field, it’s surprising and captivating.
- Surround yourself with things that you find inspiring. I have created a wall of images I find inspiring and reassuring. To get you started I would like to share this video which includes one of my favourite prints which never fails to lift my spirits and give me an idea.
- Finished is better than perfect. You might find yourself blocked because no matter what you try to finish, nothing ends up living up to your own expectations. The quest for perfection creates a sense of paralysis faster than anything else I know. Jake Parker has a great youtube video I turn to when I notice I’m skirting around the unbeatable tyrant that is perfection.
- Revisit unfinished work. At any given moment I have a stack of at least 10 unfinished sketches. If you find yourself falling out of love with a project half way through, don’t throw it away, put it aside for a rainy day instead. This way you have somewhere to go when starting something from scratch seems difficult.
- Exercise your creative muscles. Just like your real muscles, you can build your creative muscles so they can take you further on less energy. One great way to exercise is by speed drawing. Simply go somewhere, set up what you need and then draw whatever is in front of you in 5-15 minutes. No matter what the outcome finish at the time you have set yourself. Turn 90 degree and begin again. Even if you don’t like what you have done at the end, you will have at least four drawings by the time you do a full rotation back to where you started.
- Know what motivates you. This is easy said and hard lived. Knowing yourself is a life times work. However there is one small thing I have noticed works for most people, which is break whatever goal you are trying to achieve into small easy steps. I find it really demotivating to be working towards a far off goal and constantly feeling like I am getting nowhere. Where as if I have a bunch of small things I can accomplish along the way, the more I do, the energy I gather as I go.
- Experiment. Pick a piece of work that you have completed that you really like, then try and recreate it in a different medium. If you used pencils, try collage. If you used water colour, try charcoal. If you used ink try finger paints. You may surprise yourself, and surprise in my opinion is the fore-bearer of creation.
So 2019 was full of ups and downs. I fell in love, I started dating (a woman), I told my family (who were totally chill and very supportive), we broke up (family still chill and supportive), I ate some ice cream, I made a couple of books.
And while all that was going on, in the background I went and managed to pull off a bit of a life long dream. I bought my first home.
When I began the process, I was still with (let’s call her G). I was picturing her driving down to visit me and taking our dogs for walks along the seafront. Of cuddling on the sofa and watching movies. G and I would talk about who would cook and then in the end I would treat us to Pizza. This would happen forever, or until one of us got fed up with the after work journey to stay with each other and we agreed to move in together.
As our relationship changed, buying my first home became something I could focus my energy on. It became the thing I could work hard at that would be a sanctuary for my wounded heart. Through the process of finding the flat, negotiating the purchase and the confusing world of conveyancing, there were many times where I felt like the hope of having my own space was the only thing that kept me going. It was a fragile treasure for my spirit, and at time I was worried that if I breathed on it it would all crumble away.
But despite my late night worries, I have indeed acquired a house. And in my nesting process, I wanted to share some of the key things I learned as I went. I also wanted to share my experience with you all as moving has enabled me to create more art to share over the coming year.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if they seem stupid. – Everything about buying your first home is confusing. What to look for, the money bit, what the hell is a land registry; everything will be new to you. Now is not the time for pride or trying to seem like you have all the answers. Ask even the most basic of questions.
- Know what you need from your space and then make a list. – There are lots of options out there for first time buyers but if you are clear about what you need then you will be able to easily create a shortlist that will make you happy.
- Start with the big DIY bits before you move your stuff in. – If you have the luxury of a little time before you need to move yourself and your stuff in start by painting any wall that you want to paint and sorting out flooring etc. I knew I wanted to paint cupboards and all the walls so I made sure that I could do that before the furniture arrived because if you do it afterwards then you have to cover up everything and you end up under dustsheets for weeks (maybe even months). This turned out to be especially important for me as I haven’t moved into a large flat. There wouldn’t have been a lot of spare room had I had to work around my sofa.
- Ask for help. – I knew I wanted to be n relatively quickly and painting an entire flat by yourself can be a huge undertaking. I am very lucky that I had the help of some brilliant friends along the way. I am incredibly grateful for all their help, and what is lovely is that when I look around and am happy with my space, I know it’s because I have a little bit of their love and time built into my home.
- Keep furniture conversational – I have made the bold decision to live without a television. I very rarely watch programmed television and I have a PC where I can watch catch up if I fancy it, but this felt like a bold move. Having made it though I am really pleased. I’d much rather look at the people who have come to spend time with me than us all be pointed at a screen.
- Plan your storage, work out how you want your space to function – The majority of my furniture has some sort of hidden storage built into it. In small spaces this has been key because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to have a clean, clear space. My coffee table? Has all my pens in it. The sofa? lift it up and there is spare bedding. The bench in my bedroom… too much makeup. Eventually I will use what I have and hopefully I will replace it with less, which will mean my storage over time will increase.
- Know when to say goodbye (to your stuff) – I wish I had been a bit braver about throwing things out before I moved. You may think you have cleared through your stuff and that you only have the essentials, but trust me when I say go back and look again. For me this was particularly apparent with books. I have four bookcases which are full of all the books I have ever owned. I am unlikely to re-read half of them and I wish they had gone to charity.
- Take time in your space before buying big things. – If you need a new sofa or bed, spend a little time in the space before buying it and think about what is it you need. If I could go back, I would probably have gone for a washer/dryer combo because drying clothes in a small flat creates some problematic condensation.
- When you are planning your time frame, add two months. – This is true of many big projects. Whenever my solicitor and the estate agent gave me a end/moving date, I tacked on two months in my head and it was pretty spot on. And that was with a relatively smooth journey.
- (If you are in the UK) Get yourself on freecycle, your dream space doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. – I got so much of my furniture and stuff for free. I also was able to get rid of furniture that not even the charity shop wanted. And it is so much better then it going to land fill. The caveat here is that most people who are giving away stuff want you to go and collect it. I don’t have a car so it meant some careful planning and a few family favours.
With that said and done, I am still very much settled in now and enjoying once again living on my own. In 2020 I will be 30, and as I enter a new decade in more ways then one I am in a good place to embrace myself and show up for whatever happens. Talking to a poet friend of mine he said that the 30’s have been kind to him. In his 30’s he had all the fun of his 20’s but with an added layer of self-acceptance. As I look around my little white living room at my little white companion (the chihuahua) I find myself looking forward to what will happen this year. Change is always a little frightening but with it comes a refreshing breeze for the soul.
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